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JFK Airport workers call off strike

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 12/20/2012, 3:25 p.m.

Looks like the planned strike by airport security workers won't happen.

The Port Authority decided to intervene and ask that both workers and the management of Air Serv and Global Elite meet to discuss issues pertaining to the initial call for a strike so an immediate resolution could be reached.

"Earlier today, the Port Authority asked us to call off our strike and, more importantly, asked the contractors to meet with us," airport security worker Prince Jackson told workers and supporters at John F. Kennedy Airport. "Both Air Serv and Global Elite have agreed to meet, so tonight we are calling off the strike for now and look forward to discussing our concerns with the contractors."

Hundreds of Air Serv and Global Elite security officers were slated to protest at JFK Airport Terminal 3 on the arrivals level. Just several days before, workers had voted to authorize a strike starting on Dec. 20, during one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Another group of security officers from Global Elite voted to strike as well.

Workers from both companies believed that their respective employers are illegally preventing workers from speaking out against workplace conditions like lapses in security, bad equipment, rushed searches and lack of training. The workers also believe that low wages and lack of benefits have led to a significantly high turnover rate.

"We are speaking out because we are not provided the basic tools we need to keep passengers at the airport safe," Jackson said last week. "Our backs are against the wall because Air Serv tells us to shut up. 'Don't talk about how bad things are.' Even to our coworkers."

Jackson believes that his employer, Air Serv, left him with no choice but to strike. Another Air Serv officer, Shah Rahman, felt the same way.

"The security of the traveling public is very important to me," said Rahman. "That's why my coworkers and me have been telling Air Serv about problems we've encountered on the job. We submitted petitions. Air Serv instead is trying to silence us. We refuse to be threatened. We won't be silenced."

Airport security workers aren't the only ones currently embroiled with labor issues in New York City. They've showed solidarity with fast-food restaurant, car wash and supermarket employees who have also rallied in favor of higher wages and benefits and better working conditions. Recently, workers at four car washes have voted to join a union, another car wash in the Bronx went on strike and fast-food workers staged a one-day strike.

The workers have received support from local elected officials and religious leaders as well, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, state Sens. Tony Avella, Jose Peralta, Toby Ann Stavisky and Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., New York City Council Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. They've all asked Air Serv and Global Elite to reach a resolution that includes addressing the officers' safety concerns and that give workers the right to address said concerns if it affects them, other airport staff or potential passengers.

Apostle Leeds of the Churches United to Save and Heal said, "From fast-food workers to airport workers, low-wage workers are finally speaking out against undignified treatment and low pay, and many of us in the faith community are standing with them."